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Complaints Procedure

The Trustees of the Baptist Union of Great Britain approved the following procedure on 25 September 2015
1  Introduction
The primary purpose of the Baptist Union complaints procedure is to provide a clear process for dealing with complaints relating to decisions taken by its staff, trustees, committees or boards, including those who are appointed on a voluntary basis to serve on working groups or committees. 

Please note that complaints about accredited Ministers or Church Workers are handled through our Ministerial Recognition processes.
 
2  General Principles
We should be mindful that all people make mistakes and that a formal complaint should be a last resort.  The Baptist Union’s desire is that wherever there are concerns relating to actions taken by the Baptist Union those with concerns will do all they can to resolve those concerns informally rather than escalating their concerns into a formal complaint.  It is advisable to follow Scriptural principles of reconciling differences wherever possible before resorting to this formal process.  However, we recognise that in some cases there will be no alternative but to resort to a formal complaint.  This formal procedure should only be instigated when attempts to resolve the issue informally have failed or where, due to the nature of the complaints, it is not appropriate to address it with the person concerned.
 
3  Who can bring a complaint?
There is no restriction on who can bring a complaint.   However, in some cases we may receive a number of inter-related complaints or a number of people may make the same complaint.  In those circumstances we may decide to consolidate the investigation into the complaints or to deal with the earliest complaint first.  The approach will depend on the nature of the complaints and the timing of receipt of the complaints. 
 
4  What types of complaints will be considered?
The Baptist Union will deal with complaints about:
  • The application of the Baptist Union’s procedures or decisions made by the Baptist Union which directly relate to the complainant (unrelated to the conduct of an Accredited Baptist Minister or Church Worker).
  • The conduct of staff employed by the Baptist Union (unless the complaint relates to employment with the Baptist Union).
  • The conduct of trustees and others who are appointed to serve on a voluntary basis on boards, committees and working groups of the Baptist Union. 
 
5  What type of complaints will not be considered?
  • Complaints about the conduct, performance or behaviour of an accredited Minister or Church Worker. Serious complaints are dealt with through our Ministerial Recognition process and all other matters are dealt with by individual churches or associations.
  • Complaints about the support provided to a church or minister(s)/church workers by the Regional Association (that is a matter for the complaints process of the RegionalAssociation);
  • Complaints about non-accredited staff of Associations, colleges or local churches (this is a matter for the Association, College or local church)
  • Complaints about the application of the Baptist Union’s procedures or decisions made by the Baptist Union which do not directly relate to the complainant; 
  • Grievances relating to employment decisions (this is a matter for the “employer’s” grievance procedure).
  • Complaints raised which do not comply with the requirements of this procedure will not be dealt with and the complainant will be sent a copy of the complaints procedure. 
 
6  How do you make a complaint?
6.1  Complaints regarding application of procedures or decisions made  
A complaint must be made in writing and must set out the following:
  • The actions you are complaining about;
  • When they took place;
  • Why you think the actions are wrong;
  • Details of what you have done to try and resolve your concerns;
  • What you consider would resolve your concerns;
  • Details of who else you have reported the matter to;
  • Any additional information;
  • Confirmation that you are happy for detail of your complaint and the supporting documentation to be provided to those who have made the decisions in question. 

Any supporting documentation that exists should be enclosed.

Your complaint will not be dealt with unless you provide all of the information set out above.  The Union provides a form that can be used to make a formal complaint (which can be downloaded or requested from the General Secretary).
 
The complaint should be sent to the General Secretary who will arrange for an investigation to take place.  Where your complaint relates to actions of the General Secretary, it should be sent to the Moderator of the Trustee Board who will arrange for an investigation to take place.  
 
6.2  Complaints regarding BUGB staff, trustees and other volunteers serving on BUGB committees and working groups
A complaint must be made in writing and must set out the following:
  • The name of the person you are complaining about;
  • The events you are complaining about; 
  • Details of when the events took place; 
  • Details of where the events took place;
  • Details of any witnesses to the issues of concern;
  • Details of what you have done to try and resolve your concerns;
  • What you consider would resolve your concerns;
  • Details of who else you have reported the matter to;
  • Any additional information; and
  • Confirmation that you are happy for detail of your complaint and the supporting documentation to be provided to the person complained about should it be necessary to do so.

Any supporting documentation that exists should also be enclosed.

Your complaint will not be dealt with unless you provide all of the information set out above. The Union provides a form that can be used to make a formal complaint (which can be downloaded or requested from the General Secretary).

The complaint should be sent to the General Secretary who will arrange for an investigation to take place.  Where your complaint relates to actions of the General Secretary it should be sent to the Moderator of the Trustee Board who will arrange for an investigation to take place.  
 
7  How will the complaint be dealt with?
In the first instance, the complaint will be acknowledged in writing or by email within 5 working days.
Secondly, the General Secretary will appoint an investigator to look into your complaint. You will be told who will be appointed to investigate. 
The complaint will then be reviewed by the investigator.  The person investigating will seek to:
  • Establish what has happened and when it happened and who else was involved;
  • Meet with the Complainant or contact them if there is a need for clarification regarding the complaint or further information is required;
  • If following the initial information and any discussions with the Complainant the investigation is to proceed  the investigator will inform those who have been complained about of the nature of the allegations made  (unless in the opinion of the investigator this would prejudice the investigation interview);
  • Interview those involved and those complained about where necessary to understand their account of events;
  • Keep notes of all investigatory interviews;

7.1  Complaints regarding application of procedures or decisions made 
  • Once the investigation is concluded the investigator will decide whether the complaint is well founded and send the complainant their decision.  Where any aspect of the complaints are upheld the investigator should also specify the actions suggested to remedy the situation.

7.2  Complaints regarding BUGB staff conduct
  • If the person investigating concludes that the evidence suggests that conduct worthy of disciplinary action may have taken place, the issue will be dealt with under the Staff Disciplinary Processes. Where the person complained about holds a role in one of the Specialist Teams and is also an accredited person they may also be dealt with under the recognition rules if the investigator concludes that the evidence suggests that conduct unbecoming or serious misconduct may have taken place. If this is the case, the matter will be dealt with under the Ministerial Recognition rules from this point onwards.
  • The complainant will be informed that the matter is being dealt with in this way, and will be given details of the Ministerial Recognition rules

7.3  Complaints regarding BUGB trustees and others who are appointed to serve on a voluntary basis on a board, committee or working group of the Baptist Union
  • If the person investigating concludes that the evidence suggests that misconduct may have taken place, the issue will be referred to the Moderator of the BUGB Trustees Board who will chair a panel of three trustees unconnected with the matter under investigation to consider the evidence and to come to a decision. The panel may choose to invite the complainant or the person complained about to address the panel, but are not required to do so. Such a decision will be communicated to the complainant and to the individual within 5 days of the panel’s decision. The Moderator will also inform the Charities Commission if circumstances require.
  • Where the person complained about is an accredited person they may also be dealt with under the recognition rules if the investigator concludes that the evidence suggests that conduct unbecoming or serious misconduct may have taken place. If this is the case, the matter will be dealt with under the Ministerial Recognition rules from this point onwards.
  • The complainant will be informed that the matter is being dealt with in this way, and will be given details of the Ministerial Recognition rules 
 
8  Timescales
Following receipt of each complaint the Investigator will within 21 days give the Complainant an estimate of their expected timescale for dealing with the complaint. Where, as the investigation proceeds, it is not possible to meet those timescales, an updated timeline for dealing with the complaint will be provided.

The more complex the complaint the longer the timescale is likely to be.  In some cases it can take several months to properly investigate and respond to a complaint.

If the subject matter of the complaint has also been referred to the Police it may be that our investigation into the complaint cannot commence or be completed until the Police have completed their investigations and either decided not to proceed or a Court decision has been taken.  Our approach in these cases will depend on the particular circumstances of the case.
 
9  Child or Adult Protection Issues
Where a complaint relates to child or adult protection issues the investigation and follow up actions will be carried out in accordance with our child or adult protection procedures in place and these may be adjusted to account for the particular circumstances and any guidance issued by the local authority designated officer involved in the case.
 
10  What if you are unhappy with the outcome of the investigation?
10.1  Complaints regarding application of procedures or decisions made
You will have the right to appeal any decision on a complaint on these issues.  Written notice of intention to appeal should be made within 14 days of the date the outcome of your complaint was sent to you.  The appeal itself should be made within a further 14 days. The appeal should be in writing and must be sent to the General Secretary who will arrange for your appeal to be considered by someone other than the person who took the initial decision (where possible). 

The appeal must set out:
  • Your grounds of appeal; and
  • What you consider would resolve your concerns.

10.2  Complaints regarding the conduct of staff, trustees and those in voluntary appointments
There is no right for Complainants to appeal against the outcome of the investigations into BUGB staff, trustee and volunteer conduct. This is because we believe that individuals in these groups who are under investigation need certainty that if an investigation has concluded it will conclude the matter.

If new evidence comes to light that has not previously been submitted that should be provided to the investigator who will determine whether further investigation is necessary in light of that evidence.
 
11  Vexatious Complaints
If the investigator concludes that a complaint has been made vexatiously or in bad faith the Baptist Union reserves the right to take the following actions:
  • In all cases to inform the complainant that this is how the complaints are being seen, the reasons why, and the consequences of this.
  • In the case of Baptist Church members who have made complaints – to write to the Deacons of the Church indicating that the particular church member has been found to have made a vexatious complaint or has made a complaint in bad faith and that they may wish to consider exercising church discipline in relation to that.
  • In the case of a minister who has made a complaint - this would be treated as an issue of potential conduct unbecoming and would be dealt with under the Baptist Union’s Ministerial Recognition Rules.

In the case of complaints from anyone else – further complaints and correspondence from the complainants would be ignored.  
 
12  Contact by complainant
Once a formal complaint has been made, you should avoid any ongoing discussion or correspondence with the person you have complained about relating to your complaints without the consent of the investigator.
 
13  Confidentiality
The fact of and content of your complaint will be kept confidential save in so far as is necessary in order for us to properly investigate the complaint and reach a decision relating to it unless we are aware that you have not treated the fact or content of your complaints as confidential.  

Please note that we expect you to maintain reasonable confidentiality as to the nature and content of your complaint so that the investigator is able to work without obstruction.
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